Friday, May 28, 2021

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 92: Transport to metropolitan COVID-19 vaccination centres

Two big announcements came out of yesterday's statement from the Acting Premier. 1. Victoria was entering a seven day lockdown and 2. Those aged 40 to 49 were eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (previously it was just those 50 and up). 

Vaccination centres - distribution

So where are our vaccination centres? They're listed here. You can make an appointment at any of them. Some also take walk-ins. The centre list linked previously gives an idea of waiting times. The maps below show their distribution with significant geographic inequality across Melbourne suburbs. 

Note: Don't take these maps as gospel - centres may not talk walk-ins after a particular time or if their appointments are full. Also the vaccination website advises that more centres will be opening soon. 

Vaccination centres - opening hours

Note though that centre opening hours vary with early closings (eg 3:30 to 5pm weekdays) common. Arguably that's too early for a service that the state government says it wants everyone to use. Not all centres open weekends either. Think about how early Melbourne buses in the 1990s finished, take off a couple of hours and you get the idea. 

At least then you'd think that limited public transport operating hours won't be a barrier to reach a centre. Are you sure? Keep reading! 

Public transport access to vaccination centres

* Ascot Vale, Melbourne Showgrounds: Melbourne Showgrounds is a big place. Information on where to enter, and even exactly where Gate 11 or Pavilion 4 is, was lacking on the vaccine website. Tram 57 goes past on Epsom Rd, providing a frequent all day, 7 day service. However there is no indication of walking distance of Pavilion 4 from the tram stop. Melbourne Showgrounds has a train station for major events (but presumably mass-vaccinations aren't major enough to use it or there is a preference to encourage individual travel).

* Bentleigh East, Monash Health: Buses only. 822 is the main north-south route while 703 runs east-west along Centre Rd. 701 may also help some visitors from the Oakleigh direction while others might walk from the 627. 

* Berwick, St John of God Hospital: .You could walk from Berwick Station and bus interchange. Or, for more waiting but less walking, there's the 831 bus that goes right to nearby Casey Hospital. Centre open weekdays only.  

* Box Hill, Eastern Health: A street back from the 109 tram on Whitehorse Rd and walkable from the station with numerous buses, this is one of the most accessible of the suburban vaccination centres.  Those unable to walk far also have the option of buses 281, 293 or 302 in the same street. However weekend service is sparse, particularly on Sundays when the 281 doesn't run, the 293 is only every 120 minutes and the 302 is hourly. This is significant as this site is a seven day vaccination centre and is the closest one to Doncaster which relies on buses 281 and 293 to reach it. 

* Capel Sound, Peninsula Health - Rosebud: This 5 day centre has the direct 788 bus every 40 minutes out the front and the occasional (and very indirect) 787 running behind it. It is also walkable from Rosebud Plaza so people can combine their trips. The 788 serves a large catchment making this centre convenient for those south from about Mornington to reach. 

* Carlton, Royal Exhibition Building: One of the most high-profile sites. It's open 7 days. Served by frequent service on trams 86 and 96. Buses such as 250/251 and 402 nearby connect to the inner north and inner west. Also walkable from stations such as Melbourne Central and Parliament. 

* Cheltenham, Monash Health: 5 days. Good north-south access is provided by the 903 SmartBus orbital every 15 minutes. East-west coverage via the 631 every 30 minutes or the infrequent 821. 

* Clayton, Monash Medical Centre: 5 days. Walkable from Clayton Station with trains every 10 minutes. Buses 631, 703 and 733 pass nearby with 631 calling into centre. 

* Coburg, Uniting Church Coburg: Five day site in a very accessible spot. Near Coburg Station on the Upfield line and not far from Sydney Rd trams. Buses 512, 513, 527 and 903 provide east-west links though the 512 finishes before the centre does. Buses 526, 530, 534, 561 are also not far away.

Cranbourne, Cranbourne Turf Club: A seven day site that is quite accessible. This is one of two locations that the coronavirus website actually lists bus route numbers (760 and 791) and mentions the nearest train at Cranbourne station. Even closer than the station (but not mentioned) are other bus routes that stop in Lyall St. 

* Dandenong, Monash Health: Operates 7 days unlike some buses that serve it. Dandenong got left behind in the bus upgrades 12-15 years ago and nowhere does it show more than right here. The hospital is poorly served with just the hourly 811 and the 40 minutely 861 operating 7 days. The hourly 802 and 804 operate 5 or 6 days only. Those willing to walk from Stud Rd get a better service with the 901 SmartBus (15 min weekdays, 30 min weekends) along with the hourly 862 from Dandenong. 

* Deer Park, IPC Health - Deer Park: A bit of a walk from the station but it is on a cross-roads with buses going in most directions. These include the 420 (north-south then ending up at Sunshine) and the 215/426/456 running west-east (ending at Sunshine or Highpoint). Bus frequencies range from every 20 min (420) to every hour (215). 

* Epping, Northern Hospital: A seven day centre. Near the shopping centre which offers a bus interchange. Can get the 901 orbital SmartBus across the north (from Tullamarine to Greensborough and beyond) or local routes in the Epping/Thomastown areas. Just beyond Epping Station's pedshed, though some will walk.  

* Frankston, Peninsula Health - Frankston: Like Epping this is a bit beyond the station's pedshed though some will find walking faster than trying to find one of the several infrequent (every 60 - 120 minutes) bus routes that operate. See the local map for a taste of how complex local bus routes are with few substantive changes in 30 years. This is a Monday to Saturday centre. 

* Heidelberg, Austin Health: Close to Heidelberg Station. Also served by 513, 551 and 903 buses. The 551 runs Monday to Friday only. The 903 orbital SmartBus caters for longer distance east-west trips. Seven days. The 5-day 546 may also work for some passengers. 

* Heidelberg Heights, Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital: Again quite large with no specific directions.  Centre operates seven days as do buses 513 and 903. However Route 548 (the only direct connetion to the south) is six days only. Routes 250, 350 and 549 (the last two part-time) are a little further away, to the west. 

* Melbourne CBD, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre: A bit of a walk from either Southern Cross or Flinders Street stations but trams 12, 96 and 109 are quite close. Seven days. 

* Ringwood, Ringwood East Community Clinic (Braeside Avenue): Not really accessible from the station of its name. And even if it was, the trains there run only every half-hour. It's a dead-spot with nothing else of note within walking distance. In theory the 670 bus every 15 minutes can get you there (if coming from the east) but you are chancing your life with trying to cross a treacherous highway at this point due to traffic, topography and the absence of pedestrian lights. This is a poor location that should not have been picked if good access was important. Open five days. 

* South Morang, Plenty Ranges Arts and Convention Centre: Right near the council facility. Some may walk it from South Morang Station. The nearest buses are the 383 or the 386/387 (down The Lakes Bvd). Limited days.  

* Springvale, Sandown Racecourse: 7 days. This is another venue where they give train and bus information. However the directions were obviously written for car drivers with no consideration for 'human scale' access. However the centre is conveniently near Sandown Park Station where trains stop every 10 minutes, 7 days. Route 800 bus, running north of the racecourse, is also listed. This runs every 20 minutes on weekdays, 1 hour on Saturday mornings, 2 hours on Saturday afternoons (with an early finish) and not at all on Sunday. The absence of north-south bus routes in the area further limits access from nearby suburbs. 

* St Albans, Sunshine Hospital: A daily facility. It's walkable from Ginifer Station but the less mobile wouldn't attempt it. The popular 408 bus from Highpoint and Sunshine stops closer. It runs every 20 minutes Monday to Saturday but only hourly on Sunday. 

* Werribee Mercy Hospital: A traffic-chocked walk across Princes Hwy from Hoppers Crossing Station and bus interchange. The 153 and 498 buses (both every 40 min) stop closer. 5 days. 

* West Melbourne, Cohealth - West Melbourne: Open 6 days. Very good access and only a short walk from North Melbourne Station. This would be where you'd go if you come from the north and west and have limited access to centres nearer home. The 5-day 401 bus across from Melbourne University is another useful way to get to the area. And even closer is the 216 bus between Sunshine and the CBD.  

Timetables, maps and a journey planner for more information on these services can be found at

Hypothetical - where might you add new vaccination centres?

Now we'll go from fact to speculation. What if one hypothetically had truckloads of transportable medical buildings that could be plonked anywhere to form new vaccination centres in places that would maximise access by public transport? I'm not saying that this is the best, quickest or cheapest way to get everyone vaccinated but it is an interesting point to ponder. Here's my top picks. 

1. Melton. Has to be a top priority since other centres are so far away. There are really only two options; Woodgrove Shopping Centre or Melton Station. Just about all local bus routes serve one or both of these centres. On average most of Melton is nearer to Woodgrove but the station is more central for fast growing areas to the south and around Cobblebank. The town centre would be a distant third.     

2. Broadmeadows. Needs to be right near the station. This is served by multiple bus routes (including the 901 orbital SmartBus) and is on a train line. Other centres are not easily accessible from the area by public transport. It has a large low income population. Specialist multi-lingual staff will be needed here due to the area's diverse population.  

3. Tarneit. There is just one good option here. Tarneit Station near the bus interchange. Many buses come here from most parts of the City of Wyndham. It would also serve a large number of relatively low car ownership households. Werribee Plaza was considered as a key local destination but it is relatively close to the existing site at the Mercy Hospital. Even if it takes up half the station car park, this land use is far more important. 

4. Footscray. While parts are gentrifying the area around Maidstone and Braybrook has a significant low income cohort. Ideally the location should be near the station (rather than the hospital) to aid access from the Newport/Altona North/Altona area. 

5. Craigieburn. Arguably this is a bit close to Broadmeadows but it's a populated area with recent COVID-19 incidents nearby. Demographics may also feature workers in higher risk groups. If the Broadmeadows facility is near the station there is less need for this to be also. A site near the town centre might be acceptable as this is more central to the surrounding population.

6. Watergardens. Maybe it's a bit close to Sunshine Hospital near Ginifer. However it has convenient public transport access from Sunbury, Caroline Springs, Keilor Downs and even Niddrie (which has no local centre). And comparable areas in the east have a density of centres that would not make this too much. Needs to be right near the station. 

7. Greensborough. Probably a lower priority than the others above, especially given the centres near Heidelberg and its higher income and more mobile population. But it has the train plus two orbital SmartBuses that give access from a wide area. 

8. Croydon. Yes, there's a centre at Ringwood East but as mentioned above its access via public transport is terrible so it can be disregarded for this purpose. One right by Croydon Station would have a significant and conveniently accessible catchment up to Lilydale, south via the 664 bus and into the Dandenongs via the 688 bus. Chirnside Park would be a second option but its distance from the train is a disadvantage. 

9. Knox City. Off the rail network but has the 901 SmartBus from the north and south, 664 to the north and 732 to the east and west. A close second preference would be either Bayswater, Boronia or Ferntree Gully stations. Both are good for the Belgrave line but have patchy connectivity with the transport starved Knox area. 

10. Glen Waverley. Not as big as gaps in the west. But there's still a gap between centres near Clayton and Box Hill. And lots of buses serve Glen Waverley station. So have one here. 

11. Caulfield. The CBD centres aren't right at a station. Neither is Dandenong, Bentleigh East or other centres. Caulfield has mediocre public transport links to the north but has strong rail connections as well as tram 3/3a from the inner south. Put it at the racecourse opposite the station for best access. 

12. Fountain Gate. While there's a facility not that far away at Berwick, access from many surrounding areas still isn't great due to limited local bus services. Fountain Gate is about the most accessible place in the area from a wide catchment. Hampton Park Shopping Centre could be an alternative location in the area. 

13. Hastings. You could argue that this doesn't need a centre as the 782/783 bus runs to the vaccination site at Frankston. However it is still a fair distance. So a case for a local centre may be at least arguable. 

14. Mornington. Has an older demographic skew. Its local bus routes don't pass Frankston Hospital. Main Street (where it would need to be, preferably near the hospital where the 788 stops) is quite near other bus routes including 781, 784 and 785. 

15. Springvale. You could argue against this as Sandown Park is close. But Springvale is a very busy hub with local shops. It is also on the 902 SmartBus which would make it accessible from locations such as low-income Springvale South as well as Aspendale Gardens, Edithvale and Chelsea (which are a bit away from other centres). Specialist multi-lingual staff will be needed here due to the area's diverse population. 

Remember that this is a hypothetical list based on one criteria - public transport access to the largest number, with a skew towards less mobile or harder to reach population groups. In practice other criteria will also be considered important. Also I make no claims as to the feasibility of setting up centres at any of these locations (eg nearby usable facilities or available space for transportable buildings).  


The distribution of vaccination centres reflects existing facilities and/or operational convenience rather than where the people are or which locations are most easily accessible (eg near rail junctions). Their opening hours are sometimes short, making access difficult for people including in essential occupations. Also access by public transport services is not always good.  

However it is understood more centres will open. This will be vital to achieve the high rate of vaccination necessary to stop the spread and reduce the need for lockdowns as currently being experienced.  

See other Building Melbourne's Useful Network items here

Disclaimer: All care taken but no liability accepted for inability to get vaccinated due to any errors contained above. Check the Victorian government's COVID vaccinations website for the latest details on locations, opening hours, appointments and eligibility as all are subject to change.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Timetable Tuesday #119: Australia's 24 hour public transport and its future in Melbourne

Many know about Melbourne's Night Network. It was a high profile project that replaced the bus-only NightRider service five years ago. It includes all Metro train lines (running every hour) and six tram lines (running every half-hour) to provide 66 hours of continuous service from Friday morning to Sunday night.  

Plus there are some regional city coaches and 21 special overnight bus routes. About half leave from the CBD with another half as feeders from suburban stations. All are different to daytime routes and their network profile and usage is generally low. Sometimes there are four hour gaps between when regular buses finish (typically 9pm) and Night Network buses kick in (typically 1am). And after they finish there's another large gap until regular routes resume, particularly on Sunday mornings. Night Network buses appear as dotted lines on local area network maps but these are mostly online only affairs that are rarely displayed at stations and other interchange points.

Hence, even on weekends, Melbourne has no consistent, truly 24 hour bus routes unlike what trains and some trams get. Except for Skybus to the airport which ran 24 hours pre-COVID. 

What about other Australian capitals? This is one purpose of today's post. Read it to get an idea of what other cities have. We'll start at those with the least and end at those with the most. Later I'll discuss whether we can draw ideas from them for Melbourne. 


Despite being bigger and with an younger population than little old Adelaide, one senses that Perth doesn't have much in the nightlife department. Most of what it has is either in Fremantle or Northbridge. The latter was for many years on the wrong side of the tracks relative to the Central Business District (with the emphasis on 'Business' for the latter). Northbridge was not a precinct most walked past on the way to the station and has been infamous for bashings. Also, Perth's car ownership is sky-high, everyone has a parking spot and its 'inner city' cultural scene is small. Living near the coast or river is valued and on hot days people prize their early morning swim, sail or surf more than a late night out. Or even an early night out, given shorter shop trading hours than 'over east'. 

Maybe that's a trifle unfair. Or maybe not given Perth's slim after midnight service offerings. Yes, there are late Friday and Saturday night trains but that's all. Trains depart at approximately 1 and 2 am to the five main termini (Butler, Midland, Armadale, Mandurah, Fremantle). Inbound trains also operate. Late buses ran maybe 10 or 15 years ago on a few routes but ceased, presumably due to low patronage. Because the rail network has only five main lines the lack of buses leaves many areas without late night coverage, particularly in the north-east suburbs and across much of the south. Having said that, you can still have half a night out in Perth; far more of its regular bus routes are still running after 11pm Monday to Saturday than in Melbourne.   


Adelaide does the opposite to Perth. No late night trains but lots of buses. Although only on Saturday night. Buses go to the edge and even beyond the metropolitan area and rail network, with termini in places like Gawler, Seaford, Semaphore and Mt Barker. They have route numbers starting with N. 

Adelaide has a complex local bus network, largely due to the defeat of plans to simplify it last year. However  one good feature is most after midnight routes are similar to daytime routes with related route numbers (often the same with a N prefix). And when you look up timetables for the daytime route you will see times for the night route listed as well. An example is N178 to Newton which follows the longer daytime Route 178 to Paradise. Their night buses are typically hourly from about midnight to 4am on Sunday mornings. There is then typically a break until Sunday morning services commence with regular daytime route numbers (an alphabet soup in themselves). And, like Perth, many regular suburban bus routes run until about 11pm. 

Does anything run 24 hours over at least one 42 hour period? It looks like that at least the O-Bahn does. Its N1 night service runs every 30 minutes between Tea Tree Plaza and the CBD. Then, on the Sunday morning service resumes, unbroken on the J1A route (a short-working of the J1 route that runs to Glenelg via the airport). 

Oddly, though the N1 route also has short-workings (the full route stats at Golden Grove, with shorter trips starting at Tea Tree Plaza) the numbering convention is different with no letter suffix identifier for short trips on overnight routes. 


Brisbane runs a mix of 1am - 5am train and bus services. Details in the handy folding 'pocket pal' leaflet. 

The trains run a skeleton three-line service, with just one trip before 4am (both Friday and Saturday nights) to the north (Caboolture), south (Beenleigh) and west (Ipswich). Of note though is that Brisbane starts its regular trains around 5am on Saturday and especially Sunday mornings. This is much earlier than Adelaide or Perth. Its 15 or 20 premium regular bus routes also have long operating hours but most of the rest finish early, with far shorter hours than Perth, Adelaide and even Melbourne. 

19 overnight bus routes operate on Friday and Saturday nights between midnight and 5am. Most depart from Fortitude Valley, Brisbane's night spot just outside the CBD. Like Adelaide most have a N + 3 digits route number format. The exception are the two CityGlider routes (60 and 61) which keep their regular route number. This creates a problem because the two Glider routes are missing from the Translink website when NightLink is selected

Take off the N and the routes are similar to the regular high frequency 'BUZ' radial routes that form the premium part of the network on busways and key corridors in between. This makes for a legible network. Services operate hourly except for the two CityGliders (every 15 or 30 minutes). Far more of the network operates 24/7 over the weekends compared to Adelaide due to the early am starts of the premium BUZ routes. The trade-off is outer area coverage; whereas Adelaide's night buses run to the outer areas, Brisbane's night buses are overall more numerous but are largely confined to the Brisbane City Council area. This leaves much of outer Brisbane without coverage, one of the many examples where artificial boundaries and organisational demarcations hold its network back, more so than anywhere else in Australia. 

Gold Coast

Not a capital city but I'll mention it anyway. On weekends it has two overnight services running; the G-link tram every 30 minutes from Gold Coast University Hospital to Broadbeach South and the Route 700 bus every 15 minutes from Broadbeach South to Tweed Heads. During the small hours on weekdays the tram doesn't run but the 700 bus starts at Gold Coast University Hospital, thus replacing the tram. Service then is every 30 minutes. Thus the Gold Coast has some form of 24/7 transport along its coastal strip never operating less frequently than every 30 minutes. It also has a 'pocket pal' timetable describing these services. 


Sydney has a mixture of N-numbered buses that replace rail services and regular numbered buses that run 24 hours. What it lacks in trains and trams operating is made up for in operating hours for the replacement buses that run with most corridors enjoying a 7 night service. Consequently Sydney's 24/7 network is by far the most extensive in Australia. The Guide to Late Night Travel tells you what's running what (below - click for better view). 

Typical frequencies are 60 minutes for the train replacement services with Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights sometimes getting a 30 minute service. Regular routes that run 24/7 are mostly in a part of the eastern suburbs away from trains. The main exception is the B-Line to the Northern Beaches that also operates 24/7 between Mona Vale and Wynyard. This operates as BN1 and is unfortunately on a different pdf timetable to the standard B1 (although the maps show both routes). 

Melbourne now

Now we come to Melbourne. Night Network information is on the PTV website here. Maps are over here. Night Network Metro trains and some trams provide continuous 24 hour transport on weekends, with extended service on both Friday and Saturday nights. In terms of all modes operating on weekends, Melbourne leads the country. 

However buses often have multi-hour gaps because of the short operating hours on both regular and Night Network buses as mentioned before. And, unlike what we saw for Sydney and the Gold Coast no regular ticketed public transport corridor has services 24/7/365 (even if it's a bus at some times).  

Our unfortunate tradition of single mode thinking in passenger information is alive and well on the Night Network. For example the Night Tram map doesn't show Night Network buses, even those that serve tram corridors. 

Not only that but a note on the tram network map saying that 'routes and stops that do not have Night Network services are shown in grey'. Actually some do - with buses. The tram map should have advised this, even if just with a Night Bus label and route number. The Night Network tram map could also label streets, just like the more complex regular tram network map now does

As an example, Lygon St is one of Melbourne's key tram corridors quite near Melbourne University. It has 24 hour weekend service in conjunction with the 955 Night Network bus. But you wouldn't know it if you just looked at the Night Network tram map above or the limited detail Night Network bus map shown later. The only way you'd know is if you went out of your way to look it up or plan a journey. Another example of patronage being stymied by DoT officials' limited ability to effectively see, communicate and market the network is presented here

The bus map is below. Unlike the recently improved tram map that labels the streets trams run on, the Night Bus map does not. This is even though tram streets are more visible and known than Night Bus streets. Combined with the special routes and route numbers, the effect of this is to keep Night Bus a relative mystery and contribute to its poor patronage performance. (click for better view). 

The Night Bus network had its origin in the previous bus-only NightRider network. It sought to retain coverage of  that network while avoiding duplicating the trains and trams that were added in 2016. That required some design compromises, most notably to retain and expand coverage at the expense of directness and simplicity.  

It was a 'smell of an oily rag' network with some suburban routes trying to do the coverage work of two or three daytime routes. Having special routes is confusing. And it's led to poor usage of the bus component of Night Network . For example trips on some routes only occasionally see passengers, even pre-COVID. And it gives rise to areas and corridors that have better service at 2am Sunday than 2pm Sunday (though to be fair that's mostly due to a dysfunctional regular route network). 

Melbourne future 

What are some possibilities for a future better used Night Network? Potential improvements could be along the lines of: 

1. Legibility (making Night Network routes like popular daytime bus routes, including using the same route number and publishing them in regular timetables so it's not seen as a 'special service'). 

2. Span (including full 24 hour operation over weekends for buses that currently lack it, and, more radically, providing a service on other nights of the week like parts of Sydney have)

3. Frequency (providing better than hourly frequency on more lines/routes, especially trains) 

4. Coverage (current Night Network has inferior coverage to daytime service)

5. More of it running as trains and/or trams for more of the time.

If an expensive mix of the above is chosen one should pause to think about opportunity costs before acting. Melbourne's daytime bus network is notoriously confusing and infrequent in many areas, particularly the City of Knox, Greater Dandenong and the Mornington Peninsula. And key routes have no or limited services 7 days of the week. If you wanted maximum 'bang for the buck' you would be fixing regular bus networks before adding Night Network trips that will likely have below average occupancy. 

The same goes with trains; you'll get more patronage returns per train added if you were to boost infrequent Sunday morning and 7pm - midnight service (all days) to every 20 minutes than extend train operating hours. The relative costs versus benefits of extended train operating hours are magnified when station, PSO and other staffing costs are counted. Whereas boosting frequency within existing operating hours is far cheaper per service added. Another disbenefit of full 24/7 train service is added difficulty of scheduling maintenance and the increase in line shutdowns for it. More shutdowns may happen when more people are travelling which inconveniences more people. 

If there was a will to improve the Night Network then the most cost-effective ways forward are likely to involve a combination of 1, 2 and later 3. Probably in that order. 

You might start with adding Night Network trips to your strongest performing regular bus routes to see what coverage you can get versus the existing 'custom' Night Bus routes. Popular established routes that are (a) direct, busy and long operating hours CBD-based radial services or (b) serve large and high bus using populations remote from stations might be the best candidates for upgrades. This is especially where you can delete existing indirect Night Network routes in an area without losing too much coverage.

Looking at the bus map a few examples almost draw themselves. For example: 

* The 970 is a lot like the well-known 788 on the Mornington Peninsula. Could added 788 trips replace the 970 in that area to provide a simpler service with one route number?

* Caulfield to Rowville on the 969 looks a bit like the busy 900 SmartBus while the also popular 907 could replace trips on the 961. 

* In the west, the 942 looks roughly like the busy 220 plus part of the 420 beyond Sunshine. Could one or both operate all night to replace the special route? 

Converting some of the above could be quite cheap. This is because routes like the 900, 907 and 220 are already long hours routes. That makes full 24 hour service on weekends highly affordable. It's only four or five routes but they are high profile ones that introduce a 'big city' service concept to Melbourne.  

There might be some coverage gaps created. But they would be less likely to provoke an angry reaction from Aunty Mavis than if the same coverage was removed during the day. On patronage the only way is up as existing usage is so low and you are boosting some of the busiest and most well known routes on the network to make them 24 hours. Just like Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sydney already do. 

There would be a certain demographic who would base their housing decision on whether there is 24 hour public transport nearby. That would further increasing use of the upgraded services, not only in the wee hours but daytime as well. Such gains could exceed what you might lose from any coverage lost by moving Night Bus from dedicated to regular routes. 

In other cases you may be able to serve tram corridors with buses. This is promising for patronage because tram corridors also have people open to using public transport day and night living along them. The key thing to make the Night Bus work is for its service as similar as possible to the tram it replaces. 

For example the 59 tram alignment (serving transport minister Ben Carroll's Niddrie electorate) could be served by a Night Bus that merges parts of the existing 951 and 952 routes but more closely replicates the tram's route, like the Gold Coast example mentioned before. To reinforce this relationship  you might give it a route number that reminds people of the tram, eg N59 (a style other cities follow). It might be too much to expect given technical and organisational boundaries, but such a service would receive a further boost if data for it was included on Tram Tracker. 

This won't fix everything everywhere. There will still need to be some special Night Bus routes that are different to regular routes to fully cover some areas. But even if half of the Night Network buses was  replaced with upgraded regular routes it would be a step forward for 24 hour public transport in Melbourne. Then, if it's successful you might consider running selected busier routes on other nights to provide 24/7/365 service like Sydney does. 

Some people have said that the SmartBus orbitals should run 24 hours. Personally I'd shy away from this due to the expense of even an hourly service. Parts of some orbitals hardly justify themselves during the day, let alone in the small hours. And the hourly frequencies of Night Network trains make train/orbital connections chancy if not impossible.  

So you would leave out all the orbitals until you had a stronger radial network including trains every 30 minutes or better. But I wouldn't exclude the potential of running parts of some busier circumferential routes 24 hours. For example the 903 across the inner north (especially if it becomes the 904 discussed here) could be a prospect. In other cases non-SmartBus routes might align with high demand potential catchments better. For instance the 733 between Box Hill - Mt Waverley, Monash University and Clayton (such as I recommend as being a Suburban Rail Loop SmartBus) could be a front-runner given its strong destinations. As might be the 246, 508 or even 402 between various inner suburbs and even routes in low car ownership outer suburbs like Tarneit or Craigieburn.  

Grounds for optimism?

The last five years have been slim pickings for followers of bus network reform in Melbourne. Will it be the same for our Night Network buses, or will reform here be faster? 

On this there are grounds for cautious optimism.  

Subscribers to the Tenders Victoria notifications for transport might recall that about a year ago expressions of interest were sought for the running of Night Network 'bespoke bus services'. The observant will have seen that the routes listed in the service specification vary from current (Page 2). And page 4 tantalisingly refers to 'regular bus routes with 24 hour weekend service' along with the bespoke (ie special) routes put out to tender.  

Operation was intended to start in November 2020 but slipped, due to COVID-19, to March 2021 according to the front of the specification. Nothing happened then either. Maybe we'll get it later this year, or, if not, then next? We don't yet know for sure. 

Announcements of start dates of revised services are sometimes given several weeks or even more beforehand, so pay more than usual attention to releases. Sometimes local MPs publish more detail on their Facebook pages or Twitter than is initially put out by DoT/PTV.  

Also worth monitoring are the timetables on the PTV website. If you ever get wind that something might be changing it is sometimes useful to check the end dates of timetables. If it isn't 31 December of the current year then something might be afoot. Later a new timetable might appear, showing added or revised times. Also search that route by number as, especially where a route change is involved, it may be listed separately with a start date set into the future.    


Compared to other cities Melbourne's trains and trams are more advanced with regards to late night services but its buses are less advanced and more complicated. And we have no true 24 hour 365 days per week public transport on any mode. 

Is it worth even discussing boosting our Night Network when the regular daytime network still has so many problems? 

Or is something approaching 24/7 public transport seen as an essential for any big city? 

Politically, at least, the latter seems true. 

24/7 transport has a touch of glamour about it. In this it's more like airport rail and less like plain old local bus network reform (which despite the latter's wider benefits keeps getting overlooked). 

So we might get some improvements at least to Night Network's bus component sooner than a lot of other bus reform. 

What are your thoughts on this? Are there particular bus routes that should become 24 hours on weekends? Or maybe 24 hours all week? Comments are invited and can be left below. 

More Timetable Tuesday items here

Thursday, May 20, 2021

More for service in 2021 state budget

It's less than six months since last year's state budget (which got delayed due to COVID-19). As I mentioned at the time it continued the Andrews government trend of feeding infrastructure and starving service. 

Non-government parties, such as the Liberals and The Greens, considered it necessary to have their own budget proposals released just prior, although their effect would have been minimal. See discussion of them here and here. This year these parties have said less though Liberal leader Michael O'Brien wanted some level crossing removals on the Glen Waverley line . Despite the upcoming redistribution that will  likely merge seats, the Liberals will still need to regain support in these traditionally reliable areas to have any chance of forming government in next year's election. 

For now though we have another budget. We're still shut-off from the rest of the world but the jobless rate is down and house prices are up. The 'COVID budget' of 2020 featured high spending and borrowing, taking advantage of low interest rates to build infrastructure. 2021's budget foreshadows a lower but still large deficit. It will contain some extra revenue measures such as dearer fines and land tax rises, particularly on speculative gains due to rezoning as a partial offset. An electric vehicles tax will put us on the path to road pricing (to offset likely revenue loss as we transition away from highly taxed fossil fuels). Also the government is hoping that increased income from stamp duty, gambling taxes and the GST will narrow the deficit in future years.

Major transport capital announcements

The government's big project agenda is already well-known, with funding for airport rail and the Suburban Rail Loop announced in previous budgets. More immediately, additional funds will need to be found for the Metro Tunnel under construction due to a cost blowout.   

Government budgets are regarded as secret before it is tabled in parliament. Media and others get to see it slightly earlier under strict lock-up conditions. However governments often foreshadow major budget initiatives a few days before to win community goodwill or lessen the impact of potentially controversial 'tax grab' revenue measures. 

For example on Tuesday May 18, the state government announced the expenditure of $986m to build 25 new X'Trapolis 2.0 trains to replace some Comengs. The project will save Alstom's Ballarat plant which, two years ago, was reported to be under threat of closure. The trains will run on the Craigieburn, Upfield and Frankston lines. 

Note mention of Frankston and not Williamstown/Werribee. This is because by the time these trains come on stream Frankston trains will be back running via the City Loop (on their own portal, vacated by Dandenong trains using the Metro Tunnel instead) rather than forming part of the current cross-city service to Williamstown/Werribee. 

Or will they? A relatively low cost (but not yet formally announced) capacity-enhancing project would be to keep the Frankston line as a cross-city service but route it via Parliament, Melbourne Central and Flagstaff to Upfield and Craigieburn (instead of the current Flinders Street and Southern Cross routing to Newport). This is the City Loop Split reconfiguration option discussed in the Melbourne Metro Business Case from 2016 (Appendix One, page 5). 

That appendix contained the rationale for the selection of the Metro Tunnel option. However it does not preclude a future City Loop split as well. Indeed lessening the construction impact of splitting the loop is listed as a benefit of the Metro Tunnel option (Page 44). Hence both options are mutually supportive and are proposed in 2018's Victorian Rail Plan. The grouping of Craigieburn, Upfield and Frankston for the new train order could make special sense in this context. More on how a reconfigured loop could work with the rest of the network is contained in the Rail Futures Institute Melbourne Rail Plan

Also in Tuesday's announcement was advice that Alstom is also working on a battery powered model for potential use on the Western Rail Plan (RRL lines to Wyndham Vale). If this works then this would affect the form that Wyndham Vale rail electrification could take (e.g. sections without overhead wire coverage but charging at Wyndham Vale).  

May 10 saw the Herald Sun report on possibilities for the Caulfield - Monash - Rowville tram proposal. This was promised in mid-2018 but got overshadowed by the much bigger Suburban Rail Loop that captured many imaginations. The tram has not been talked about much since by government. Anyway 'trackless trams' (a form of battery-powered bus that doesn't sway as much but wears down the road quicker and has higher rolling resistance) are apparently now a front runner. The biggest cost with these sorts of projects is the way, especially if you want it to be fast and isolated from traffic-caused delays. This is largely independent of the propulsion technology used. 

And earlier in the month was a target for all public transport bus purchases to be zero emissions by 2025 as part of a zero emissions vehicle roadmap. If this is funded this will be a big advance on last year's $20m budget initiative which was for a limited sized trial

Transport services 

To quote from one of the releases, the headline figure is $74.3 million to reform the state's bus network.  There will be both some new bus routes and upgrades to existing ones. But we don't know exactly what yet. 

Overall I'd describe it as being 'good but not transformative', with an emphasis on growth area coverage. Both the Yarra Valley and Broadmeadows reviews have significant potential to fix many long-standing service shortfalls if done right. 

Brunswick MP Tim Read has advocated for an improvement to the 505 bus. This work appears to have paid off with the Moonee Ponds to Melbourne University route specifically mentioned for improvement.  

Fishermans Bend is another winner. These are good performing bus routes that justify improvements. There may also be opportunities for improving operational efficiencies as few passenger ride these buses between Queen Victoria Markets and Southern Cross and a shortening may enable improved services on the busy section of these routes. Also worth looking at is investigating ways to prioritise bus movement as (often) single-occupant cars frequently delay buses with 40 to 60 passengers on board. Elsewhere in the budget is the commencement of work to identify high capacity transport corridor options to the precinct. 

New routes have recently started running for Clyde North. However they have loose ends and overlaps with other routes. Plus they are not particularly frequent and there remain substantial coverage gaps. Hopefully today's announcement will enable a reappraisal of the network with simpler and more frequent routes. 

The same applies for Tarneit. This is getting two new routes (starting in 10 days) as budgeted previously but there remains a large coverage gap in Tarneit North around Dohertys Rd. It remains to be seen whether this budget's new route there is purely residential or extends to connect to jobs in Laverton North (possibly on its way to somewhere like Sunshine). 

A few statistics

Budget documents include other numbers such as actual and projected public transport patronage. In recent times these have changed only marginally. Predictions are also conservative, rising by about the same as population. Hence they have often been of little interest. 

This time is different. Actual numbers will have been greatly depressed due to COVID-19. Predicting the future recovery will be difficult as it depends on other factors such as whether the swing to working from home is sustained, and if so how many days of the week it will entail. Anyway, for what it's worth, key stats are as follows (expected outcomes from Budget Paper 3 from page 331): 

Metropolitan bus patronage 2020/21: 64.8 m (down by nearly 50% due to COVID). 

Metropolitan bus punctuality: 92.5% (well above 86% target due to reduce patronage & traffic)

Metropolitan bus operating costs: Up by about $60 million due to contract indexation and some network reform and service improvements. 

Metropolitan train patronage 2020/21: 92.1 m (down by more than 60% due to COVID)

Metropolitan tram patronage 2020/21: 68.4 m (down by more than 65% due to COVID)

Patronage predictions for 2021-22 for all modes are the same as the 2020-21 target. This seems ambitious given that international students are major users of public transport and their numbers are down. Also some workplaces may switch to remote working for at least some of their staff for some of the time. 

Myki touch on/offs per minute. Target increased from 28 to 37 due to the roll-out of faster readers. The poor sensitivity and responsiveness of older type of readers is a common passenger bugbear and can mean people don't touch on or off when they need to. 

Metropolitan fare compliance across all modes: 96.5% . People who watch passengers behaviour on buses etc may query whether it's quite this high. Although it is possible that for passengers making some types of multimodal trip that a failure to touch on does not always imply fare evasion. 

Percentage of metropolitan bus services delivered: 100% . Again this looks almost too good to be true! 

Where everything is

Read it all at:

A short cut to the budget papers is here 

On Twitter follow #vicbudget (or #vicbudget2021 )

The budget papers most important for public transport are:

* Paper 2 (Strategy and Outlook)
Page 18 refers to $3.2b for public transport services and infrastructure, including $986m for 25 new trains and upgrading the train maintenance facility at Craigieburn. There is $265 million for planning, upgrade and maintenance of roads including a $42m component for freight. An additional $386 million is for a new road safety strategy. Amongst other things this includes infrastructure upgrades and new technologies (potentially important with regard to walking, cycling and access to public transport stops).  Furthermore $21 million is earmarked for the state's walking and cycling network. 

Page 69 has a graph for capital expenditure. This is dominated by transport projects. A peak is expected in 2021/22 with a gentle levelling off thereafter. 

* Paper 3 (Service Delivery) Pages 107 - 121, 327 - 346 and 399. (more from this below)

* Paper 4 (Statement of Finances) Pages 14 - 17, 98 - 108 (more from this below)

Salient points from Paper 3 (Service Delivery)

* Bus service improvements and reform

This is encouraging with more funding than the very parsimonious amounts in the 2020/21 budget. Also the words 'and reform' have been added to the output description. Also encouraging.  Dollar amounts over the next four years (from 2021/22) are 11.9, 18.8, 14.7, 15.2 (in millions). To quote from the document these are: 

• route adjustments and extensions to complement Big Build projects;
• school special services in Shepparton and Horsham;
• new and extended routes in Clyde, Clyde North and Tarneit North;
• network changes in the Yarra Valley and Broadmeadows;
• additional services between Moonee Ponds and Melbourne University;
• upgrades and improvements to the Sunbury bus interchange;
• service uplifts for bus routes between Fishermans Bend and the Melbourne central
business district;
• improvements to the bus interchange near the former General Motors Holden site;
• operational improvements at Southern Cross Station to improve the reliability of
existing bus services.
Funding is also provided to continue the Westgate Punt ferry service across the Yarra
River between Fishermans Bend and Spotswood.

(hence the emphasis here is on growth areas plus Fishermans Bend) 

* Active transport. Amounts between $1.1 and 1.8m budgeted for. This is to support an asset initiative in the area. That includes a shared trail between Eltham and Greensborough, a bridge at Toorak Rd as part of the Anniversary train and pedestrian access on Highbury Rd in Burwood. 

* Ride Space initiative. This was an urgent COVID-19 era project to advise passengers so they could avoid crowded trains and physically distance by providing online information. This has a cost of $7.5m in 2020/21. 

* Caulfield Station interchange. This will become a major station feeding into the Metro Tunnel. More passengers will use it as an interchange point as the Dandenong and Frankston lines will go different ways into the CBD. $2 million is allocated for planning. This is to "improve customer amenity and passenger flows, noting that an increase in platform-to-platform interchange movements is expected at the station after the opening of the Metro Tunnel." There will also be more secure fending, more power feed-in and signalling improvements. 

* Wyndham Vale and Melton corridor improvements to allow higher capacity trains. These areas will also benefit from development work on a new commuter train. 

* Planning for Fishermans Bend transport. This includes abovementioned bus upgrades and longer term planning for land acquisition and corridor protection as well as future 'high capacity transport' (mode not specified). 

* Efficiency measures. DoT savings are promised by "streamlining administrative and policy functions, including through reducing functional overlaps, program consolidation, the implementation of new technologies and improvements to business processes." Improved business processes here are needed and it's important that measures taken here facilitate rather than hinder service reviews and improvements. 

* Some funding for rolling stock disposal, life extensions and maintenance. For both trains and trams. Also storage and maintenance facilities including upgrades at South Dynon (for V/Line), and Southbank (trams) plus a new maintenance facility to support Next Generation Trams in Melbourne's north west. 

* Improved tram operations. Non-mountable kerbs to be installed in six CBD locations to reduce disruptions caused by errant car drivers. Also funding for Automatic Vehicle Monitoring. 

* Public transport accessibility and amenity improvements. A number of small projects including level access upgrades to seven tram stop pairs to tie in with reconfigured tram services after the Metro Tunnel opening, braille plates and tactiles at over 1000 tram stops, amenity improvements at stations including Aspendale, Burnley, North Richmond and Ruthven, and upgraded bus stops around Greensborough station (to tie in with Hurstbridge line upgrade works). 

* There are some big changes to the cost of running services (Page 329). Buses are up but trams and especially trains are well down. A footnote advises that the capital asset charge policy is discontinued from the 2021-22 budget. This old PTUA page explains that including this charge (an accounting fiction) inflated the cost of running public transport services. So it's good that it's gone.  

Salient points from Paper 4 (Statement of Finances)

This lists capital expenditure to support various new and existing projects. 

Page 98 new projects

* $8.2 million in 2021/22 for bus service improvements and reform. That is followed by another $5.4 m later. I expect this is a mix of new buses and other capital works required. 

* Page 98 also has $15m for public transport accessibility and amenity with most spent in 2021-22. Other public transport safety improvements get $2 - 3m. 

Page 100 existing projects

*  Total investment of $6.5b for level crossing removals. 

* Bus service improvements from the 2020-21 budgets $4m, most of which will be spent in 2021-22. Further down another entry appears, just for Metro Bus service improvements ($5m). Mention is made of a delay here due to 'ongoing discussion with local councils'. To take a guess it is from this pot of money that will come buses for previously budgeted services upgrades in areas like Mornington Peninsula and Keysborough South. 

* Zero emissions bus fleet. $16 million. From last year's budget. 

* Walking and cycling upgrades across state. Total $26 million + $15 million. 


This budget continues the large projects from previous years. There is however a welcome swing to some smaller capital projects based on accessibility and safety. Also welcome have been boosts to bus services and a statement that network reform is also important. Details on these services appear to be sketchy but will be commented on in future posts here. 

When can you expect to see bus services first announced in today's budget? The standard lag is 25 or 26 months as explained in detail here. Sometimes it can be longer, for instance with Keysborough South's second route. But if there was a will to improve off-peak services on some existing routes (which would require no extra buses) then it might be possible to hasten delivery given available funding. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Timetable Tuesday #118: Route 402 Every 10 minutes across the inner north

While trains and trams are almost entirely radial, many buses in Melbourne are circumferential. This makes for a complete network with an ability to get to many places with just one change.  One of the most important routes for this purpose is the 402. Starting at the major interchange of Footscray and ending in East Melbourne it intersects four Metro train lines (Werribee, Sunbury, Craigieburn, Upfield) and about half of our tram routes in a west-east trajectory across the CBD’s fringe inner north. Major destinations include the health and university precinct at Parkville and more hospitals at East Melbourne. The 402 is the nearest we have to an inner orbital bus. And not surprisingly it’s popular for diverse trips throughout the week. 

The route map from the PTV website is below:

It’s only when you see the network map do you get a true idea of what the 402 connects to. Having said that some effort is needed to see it (it’s one of the thin green lines). This is because Department of Transport mapping policy is to give equally (low) prominence to all bus routes, regardless of whether they run every 10 minutes or just once an hour. In contrast, trains, which are only half as frequent as the 402 is on weekdays, are more boldly shown. 

The 402 mostly has unique coverage (for an east-west route). The main overlapping route between Footscray and Parkville is the 403 express University Shuttle. The latter is not very well used but allows passengers from V/Line trains to make a one-change journey to Melbourne University (as V/Line trains no longer stop at North Melbourne). 


Here is where the 402 is really special. It is one of just two (2) seven day bus routes in the whole of Melbourne that runs every 10 minutes off-peak. It got that frequency about five years ago when its sometimes slack layover times were tightened to permit more even and frequent departures.  We are increasingly lagging Sydney which is rapidly adding 10 minute routes with its substantial program of bus network reform. 

402’s 10 minute frequency applies between about 6am and 7pm on weekdays. Service at most other times, including weeknights, Saturday (day) and Sunday (day) is every 20 minutes. Weekend early morning and evening frequencies is typically every 30 - 40 minutes. The service starts quite early in the morning on all day of the week but service shuts down shortly after 9pm on all nights of the week. Hence while the 402’s frequency is generally better than a SmartBus its operating hours are more like a local route. 

The 402 hasn't been completely without an upgrade in recent years. It, like many other bus routes in older parts of the inner west (eg 406, 408, 410 & 472), once had a relatively good Monday - Saturday service but a low (eg every 40 min) Sunday frequency. However a few years ago it got a Sunday upgrade to every 20 minutes to match Saturday. Trains and trams all got upgrades along these lines in 1999 but these were only sometimes extended to buses years later.  


402 is an above average patronage performer for buses in Melbourne. In late 2018 it had 29 boardings per service hour on weekdays and 33 on Saturday. Sunday service was less at 19, but this might have been because the upgrade was relatively new then and people hadn't got used to it being an improved and more useful service. Average weekday patronage productivity for Melbourne buses is a bit over 20 passenger boardings per service hour.   


Dates back to 1946/1947. More at BCSV here

A new eastern terminus?

While the 402’s western terminus is strong, its eastern terminus is not. Adding length would likely require more buses. Any extension would thus need to justify itself in terms of increased patronage. Possible candidates include an extension to Jolimont or even Richmond Station. 

Even more ambitious was a 2014 proposal by Greens MP Ellen Sandell to extend to the 402 east to North Richmond Station and Abbotsford Convent. This would have some connectivity gains but add significant route kilometres including overlapping the Victoria Pde tram. Also proposed was an extension of operating hours to midnight which would make the 402 better than a SmartBus and similar to Punt Road's Route 246, Melbourne's only other full-time bus that runs every 10 minutes on weekdays. 

With the local exception of Tim Read MP and the 505 bus, the Victorian Greens have switched their public policy emphasis from advocating better public transport (particularly bus) to promoting electric car use as the lesser EVil in transport. However they still rely on their 402 advocacy (from 7 years ago) when challenged on this as evidence that they still support better buses. 


The Metro Tunnel will provide a much faster connection between Footscray and Parkville than the 402 currently provides. However the 402 services many intermediate stops. It will thus continue to have a role after tunnel services commence in 2025. 

Not unrelated to the 402 is connectivity between Parkville and the Clifton Hill group of rail lines. Currently travel via train is indirect because trains run via Flinders Street and Southern Cross. The 546 bus exists but is only about every half-hour and has some inconsistencies. Infrastructure Victoria is advocating a bus shuttle from Parkville to Victoria Park as a top priority. This may be more important than an eastern extension of the 402. 

Anyway what do you think? Are longer hours 402's top priority? Does it need an extension, and if so, where. Please put your thoughts in the comments below. 

See other Timetable Tuesday items here

Friday, May 14, 2021

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 91: Fixing the 824 corridor (Moorabbin - Keysborough)

Today we'll look at what I'll call the '824 corridor' in Melbourne's south and south east. What we know as the Route 824, from Moorabbin to Keysborough, has been on its current alignment for the better part of 30 years. 

Pretty much the only thing that's changed since is its timetable when it gained 7 day service and extended hours about 15 years ago. These were part of a 'minimum standards' program rolled out to over 100 bus routes. 

Other structural issues with bus timetables were not always changed then. For example a busy route may run every 15 or 20 minutes Monday to Saturday but Sunday service was left at every 40 to 60 minutes despite usage justifying an improvement (such as on routes like the 408 to Highpoint). Or frequencies might not have been adjusted to harmonise trains with chronic non-connections remaining to this day (particularly in the northern suburbs). 

Oddities that date from when shorter routes were merged and one area having historically higher frequencies than another have also persisted for decades. For example Moorabbin Transit routes were typically every 20 or 30 minutes while Grenda routes around Springvale/Dandenong were more often hourly, even during peak times. The 824 reflects this with the Moorabbin end operating every 20 minutes but the Keysborough end having only a 40 minute frequency as only every second bus extends there. This is despite Noble Park/Keysborough having more favourable demographics for buses than Moorabbin. You can see this illustrated in the timetable fragment below. 


The map below shows the 824's alignment. It could be described as being in two parts. There is a direct west-east Moorabbin to Clayton portion and a diagonal Clayton to Keysborough portion. 

The Moorabbin - Clayton half is mostly continuously residential with a TAFE and some light industrial. It could not be made straighter than it is.  It has mostly unique coverage with little overlap from other routes. Its 20 minute weekday frequency meshes with every second train at Moorabbin and Clayton. 

The Clayton to Westall part, through the 'poets streets', is mostly residential. Then there's some dense housing near Westall Station. It then becomes a mix of housing and light industrial down the pedestrian-hostile Westall Rd which presents a formidable barrier. Despite its frequency having by now dropped to 40 minutes, the 824 is still the most frequent local bus in the Springvale South area. It also has a lot of unique residential catchment in the south-west part of Keysborough. However access to it is not helped by impermeable street layouts. Finallly the 824 overlaps two other routes (that are even less frequent than it, namely the 812 and the 813) via Kingsclere Av to Parkmore Shopping Centre.

There is no logical reason why the 824 need be a single route. They perform different functions east and west of Clayton. It is likely that the turnover of passengers at Clayton would be quite high, with few passengers travelling through. There is a possibility that if routes were split they could be freed to serve more popular destinations. 

The remainder of this post will discuss these opportunities, starting from west to east. 

The Brighton end

If you were a car driver heading west along South Road you would be able to remain seated until you risk falling into the bay at Brighton Beach. Whereas bus passengers are artificially required to change at Moorabbin from the 824 to either the 811 or 812. And, because the 824 is every 20 minutes and the other two combined are every 30 minutes, waits will be uneven and in some cases long. 

Then there are issues with the bus network in Brighton itself. It has too many (four!) bus routes that parallel the train while there are too few good services that feed it from the east. Those routes that run north-south collectively operate at excessive frequency and for excessive hours for their low usage. The local council once tried a feeder shuttle bus to relieve parking pressures at local stations. With service either every hour (823) or every half-hour (811/812) regular bus routes are currently inadequate to perform the train feeder function. It has been demonstrated that you start to get people using buses as train feeders only when bus frequency gets to every 20 minutes or better. Local routes rarely do this and when several overlap they form a complex mess with people having to check multiple timetables. 

A way to simplify the local network could be to extend Route 824 westward to Brighton to replace the Route 811/812. This would deliver a frequency increase and a simple South Rd route operating both sides of Moorabbin. 811/812 could start at Southland to go to Dandenong as present. The area east of Moorabbin could potentially be served by the 627 extended to Southland instead of Moorabbin. The map below presents the idea (click for clearer view). 

Are there shortcomings? As with almost any bus reform there will be. For instance Brighton people no longer have a one seat ride to Southland. However the current 811/812 is infrequent and indirect. Also, since this network was designed the Frankston line has improved from every 20 to every 15 to every 10 minutes. Last but not least Southland now has a station. Therefore a bus/train connection at Moorabbin would be a good substitute option especially if 824's weekend frequency was improved (20 minutes suggested but even 30 minutes would mesh with trains at 2 out of 3 stations). 

There would be a small increase in service kilometres (due to the increase from 30 to 20 minutes for the 824's extra portion). However it may be possible to claw some of that back by pruning the timetable for routes such as the 603. Its frequency of every 20 minutes until 1am, for example, is excessive for its current usage especially given how close it is to the train near Brighton Beach. Routes 600/922/923 could also be reformed and simplified since this also has low usage around the Brighton area. 

Clayton / Monash precinct

I mentioned before that few would travel between both halves of the 824. However just north of Clayton Station is a major hospital precinct. Then to the north-east is the area's major employer at Monash University which nevertheless has poor bus access to some surrounding areas. 

The concept here is to split the 824 into two routes at Clayton. But instead of terminating there both would run to Monash University Clayton as shown on the map below. The western portion (which I've kept as 824 but could revert to a 600-series number) would be little different except for the Monash extension. That would greatly improve access to the campus from Clarinda and areas further west near South Rd. This should be a strong route with good patronage. 

The eastern portion could be a whole new route between Monash, Westall and Keysborough. I've labelled it 817 on the map below. It would fill a major transport gap in the area with many short but currently difficult connections now possible. These include connecting the high-rise (but poorly served) M-City development to Westall Station and providing a much easier Monash University connection for areas like Springvale South and Keysborough. Service on this route could be every 20 minutes (7 days) given the strong trip generators in the northern end and the high patronage propensity on the southern end. It could build on local Keysborough network upgrades discussed last week in Useful Network 90

As with almost any realignment things need to be done to other routes to avoid coverage losses. Rerouting the southern part of 824 means that areas south of Westall Station need a service. A possibility could be to reroute the 704 and extend it to Springvale. This would improve connections to local shopping since the existing 824 skips Springvale. 

Centre Rd also needs a route to Clayton to replace the moved 704. This could be done by extending the 814 to Clayton, as discussed in Useful Network 48. The portion of Springvale South that would no longer have the 814 could have service provided by either a rerouted 811 and/or the extended 704 mentioned above. Unlike the current 814 both of these replacement routes would operate 7 days per week, improving service in a pocket of Springvale South that needs it. 

The above is not a cost-neutral upgrade. The additional service to Monash University and the increased frequency suggested for the 817 will need buses. However it is unquestionably a good place to deploy buses given the improved connections to jobs in the Monash Precinct and the good patronage performance of existing bus routes in the area. 


The current Route 824 looks like two routes tacked onto one another. They miss key education, health, job and transport hubs by a few kilometres. The revisions suggested here could greatly improve access through a large part of Brighton, Moorabbin, Clarinda, Clayton, Springvale and Keysborough to these important services. 

If you have any thoughts or alternative ideas please post them in the comments below. 

See more Building Melbourne's Useful Network items here